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tonight in this week that was politically. outside the pentagon today, a farewell tribute to defense secretary robert gates including a surprise. the president presented him with the medal of freedom, this nation's highest civilian honor, thanking him for his four decades of public service and his long tenure as secretary of defense under two presidents of different political parties. president obama called gates a humble american patriot and his response was emotional. >> it is a big surprise, but we should have known a couple of months ago you would get pretty good at this covert ops stuff. >> gates has a lot of fans and ed a might beers in both parties. and he's served in a variety of roles under eight separate presidents of the united states. he turns his job over to former
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cia director leon panetta. and sadly, news tonight about the fighting men and women secretary gates has focused so much of his time on, three u.s. soldiers killed in iraq yesterday. attack at a u.s. base called shocker, right near the border with iran. seven other americans were wounded, that brings the death toll up to 15 in two years and ten months after the u.s. declared an end to combat operations in iraq. china has a lot to boast about tonight. first today it opened the world's longest bridge over a body of water. it's a bridge about 350 miles southeast of beijing. it's over 26 miles long, that's 2 1/2 miles longer by the way than the causeway over ponchartrain in louisiana, for those keeping score at home. and the estimated cost, at least $1.5 billion.
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this bridge is part of the government's effort to deal with serious traffic congestion in a nation that, of course, has more people than any other area in the world. another area where china has rocketed ahead is high-paid rail. they unveiled a new system today, beijing to shanghai, 800 miles in about five hours, less time than it takes to fly from new york to l.a. for china, high-speed rail is what the interstate highway system was to the u.s. back in the 1950s, which raises again the question, when it comes to trains, why is america home of the iron horse and the golden spike still on the slow track. we have a report from nbc's adrian mong who rolled the rails from beijing. >> reporter: it's smoother, sleeker, greener than a jet plane. the harmony express, clocking 187 miles an hour, connecting the chinese capital of beijing to shanghai in just under five hours.
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the beijing shanghai link is 824 miles long, that's about the distance between new york and atlanta. if you took amtrak, that would take you 18 hours. china spent $34 billion to build this rail link in just over three years, nearly a year ahead of schedule. how did they do it? >> it's a one party regime, so there's no political opposition, there's no rule of law, there's no transparency, so there aren't as many environmental hearings and things like that. and then they have got the money. >> reporter: they also had a little help. our technology is imported from france and germany, said this engineer, but we developed our own train. with that technology, china already has 12 high-speed railings under construction, hoping to build 10,000 miles of high-paid rail by 2020. but critics say it's costing the government too much to build and passengers too much to ride. earlier this year, the railway's
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ministry chief was fired for allegedly embezzling $30 million, sparking concerns railway authorities might have cut corners at the expense of safety. but maybe, also in a rush to catch up. there's still a huge gap between china and other developed countries, says this railway official, we want to be like americans, we want a strong country and a good life. a life the chinese are rushing to embrace. adrian mong, nbc news, along the high-speed rail in china. >> reporter: this is tom costello. if they can build it in asia, why can't they build it here? well, in california, high-speed rail is on the way. construction begins next year on what will eventually be a northern california to los angeles line promising 150,000 jobs. this is about as american as you can get, good, green jobs, putting americans to work. at the moment, america only has
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high-speed rail in the northeast from d.c. to new york and boston where centuries old tracks and winding routes keep the acela from ever hitting peak speeds. this train runs on freight lines, but to go faster than 120 miles an hour would require an entirely new electrified network of high-speed rail lines. the obama administration is moving ahead. the ultimate goal, connect 11 megacity regions with a network of high speed track helping to relieve congested roads and airports. but it won't be cheap, $53 billion over the next three years, $600 billion over the next 25. already republican governors in florida, wisconsin and ohio have rejected high-paid rail money afraid they will be on the hook for overruns.
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>> the truth is this project will be far too costly to taxpayers and i believe the risks far outweigh the benefits. >> reporter: but seeman's engineering the ready to go from building light rail systems to high-paid systems. >> it would mean hundreds of thousands of jobs. it would mean billions of new economic development. >> this is the same debate i'm sure they had 50 years ago when eisenhower signed the interstate bill. >> reporter: it's whether the u.s. can afford to build a high-speed rail network or can't afford not to. when we come back here tonight, they served their nation, but now who's standing up for them now that they're home? and later, oh, canada, the new royal couple arrives in north america for their first official trip and all eyes, well, they aren't all on william.
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so many americans have served their country in our nation's dual wars and all those that came before them. so many of them come home and find trouble, they don't have what they need to get by. in los angeles, advocates went so far as to file a class-action lawsuit to try and force the veteran's affairs department to step up for former service
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members who are now homeless. our report tonight from nbc's lee cowan. >> reporter: for elroy riden, empty bottles and cans are the only currency he has. >> this might be enough for me to get a hamburger today. >> reporter: he says he's been homeless ever since he was discharged from the army in 1986. >> i can't hold a job because of my mental disability. >> reporter: the only thing he has in his wallet is a faded card from the va. >> give me a place to stay now, you owe me, you owe me something. >> reporter: depending on the study, there are anywhere between 75,000 and 100,000 homeless vets nationwide and most of them live right here in los angeles. and sadly, there were more of them here last year, than the year before that. >> right now we are full, i would say we're at about 95% capacity. >> reporter: this shelter run by the salvation army is a respite for vets, it's on the campus of
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one of the largest medical centers in the country. but it now says more should be done for veterans. >> this campus houses more rent-a-cars, than severely disabled veterans. >> reporter: in a lawsuit filed this month, the aclu alleges that the va has misappropriated much of the land by leasing it out for commercial property instead. rent-a-car, a theater, even a dog run. >> obviously more money is being invested into the financing of the wars than the financing of the wounds. >> reporter: but the va says revenue from the businesses benefit the veterans. >> we have seen a commitment on the part of the va to a problem that just hasn't existed previously. >> reporter: elroy hay have fallen through the cracks, too proud to even tell his family that his army career ended up on the streets. >> reporter: so they don't know? >> no, they don't really know. >> reporter: how bad things are? >> yes. >> reporter: for now he's left
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to count his pennies and wonder where he'll sleep tonight. lee cowan, nbc news, los angeles. when we continue here tonight, it may seem like they were little ones just yesterday, but get ready, the list is out of the most expensive colleges in this country.
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department of education is out with the list of the most expensive colleges. the top five are mostly in new england, and fair warning here, if you see acceptance letters from any of these schools in the mailbox, be warned, take a seat, have a beverage, breathe deep through an open mouth. bates in lewiston, maine tops the list. $51,300, followed by connecticut college, middlebury and colby.
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the top 25 also includes g.w., colgate, penn state. the most expensive state school by the way, penn state at just over $14,000 a year. you've heard of snakes on a plane? how about a nice scorpion, a poisonous one, believed to have boarded an alaska airlines flight when passengers did in texas. it stung jeff ellis on the elbow. two doctors on board-checked him out, said he was probably fine. luckily he was, but the kids on board were reportedly and understandably terrified when word started to spread through the cabin. the airline offered ellis 4,000 frequent flyer miles on spider-free flights and two roundtrip tickets, he says he is pleased with that settlement. and please allow us a brief note tonight about two of our own. in both cases, these are guys who have helped us tell you the story of american men and women in the fight overseas. first, richard engel, our chief
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foreign correspondent was here with us last night, he's on a plane back to the region. last weekend he received the daniel pearl award for courage and integrity in his reporting from the l.a. press club, it was named after "the wall street journal" reporter captured and killed in pakistan. richard has spent the better part of this past decade covering this nation's dual wars. and a few days back, we all gathered for the retirement of craig white, our nbc news chief photographer. craig has been our go-to guy for years. by the way, the video he shot of the firefight beneath an airport on baghdad road early in the invasion is the best photograph y in this era. that was his camera when david bloom roared across the desert and when richard engel came out with his combat unit just a few months back. craig says he's going sailing with his wife and he will, but i say we'll see craig again.
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when we come back, a royal couple honored.
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it's been just two months since the royal wedding that received global attention. and now will and kate are on
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their first official trip together as husband and wife. it's kate's first-ever trip to north america. which will bring them to los angeles a week from tomorrow. but they're beginning tonight in canada and the well behaved and reserved people of that great nation are in their own way reacting wildly to the trip. here is nbc's kevin tibbles. >> reporter: they have been lining the streets of ottawa since sunup, all waiting to catch a glimpse, albeit fleeting, of the duke and duchess of cambridge. on their first international tour together. it appeared as if everyone wanted to present the royal newlyweds with a bouquet and the flower stands were doing brisk business. what do you think of kate? >> i think she's pretty. >> reporter: the couple's nine days 7,000 miles of crisscross of canada traveling to canada, quebec, the atlantic, the arctic and finally to calgary, home of
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oil barons and cowboys. >> before we were married, we had a longing to come here. the geography of canada is unsuunsu unsurpassed and matched only by its people. >> reporter: tomorrow they will help celebrate with a half million others in front of the parliamentary buildings. but while there was pageantry and traditional bearskin hats, this tour is supposed to be upbeat, light on the stodgy, the royals seemed to love it, so did their fans. although not everyone is thrilled. >> it's a fairy tale. >> it's a memory of diana. >> i think it's pretty ridiculous how people treat them, you know. >> reporter: should be there be a royal walk about, they could pick up some of the life blood of canada as a souvenir for the queen, maple syrup. others want them to taste this deep-fried concoction called a beaver tail. it's kind of like a doughnut. wherever they go, they have been
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followed by a media throng 1,400 strong. >> this is the hope for the future. this is true love at last in the royal family. it's a love story. >> reporter: a love story today savored by all. kevin tibbles, nbc news, ottawa. there we go, that's our broadcast for this thursday night. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. we hope you can join us right back here tomorrow evening. good night. a somber day as dozenses of police officers turn in their badges. a student leads police to the bay area. the news at 6:00 starts right now.

NBC Nightly News
NBC June 30, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT

News/Business. The latest world and national news. New. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY China 7, Canada 6, U.s. 5, Los Angeles 5, Nbc News 3, New York 3, Lee Cowan 2, Craig 2, Richard Engel 2, Penn State 2, L.a. 2, Shanghai 2, Adrian Mong 2, America 2, Us 2, Ottawa 2, Iraq 2, North America 2, G.w. 1, Leon Panetta 1
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